Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, on Friday, explained that cash disbursements of N611, 821, 910 million for YouWin 3 entrepreneurs was suspended following the discovery of fraudulent entry into the programme by some awardees.

She recalled that the administration had inherited YouWin and commitments of grants to 1,500 entrepreneurs from the previous administration and on the basis of that, decided to pay N611, 821, 910 million to a batch of awardees under YouWin 3.

However, she said following evidence of fraudulent entry into the programme provided by a whistleblower, an internal investigation was set up to authenticate the veracity of the allegation.

According to a statement by the Director of information, Salisu Dambatta, “Allegations were received from an anonymous whistleblower, which provided documentary evidence of irregularities in 10 cases out of the batch.

“The Minister immediately directed that an internal investigation be conducted to determine the veracity of the alleged fraud and report the findings to her for necessary action.

“The substance of the allegations was that an awardee was the child of a former Director in the Ministry and there were a number of cases where married couples each benefitted.  This raised concerns about the integrity of the original selection process, which took place in 2014.

“The position of the Ministry is that investigations are ongoing under the Presidential Initiative on Continues Audit (PICA) who will review each suspected case to determine whether any irregularity occurred.  In the interim, disbursements of this batch have been suspended.”

She noted that the original YouWin programme midwifed 3, 900 enterprises within four years, and was just one of the multiple intervention programmes to create jobs at the time.

However, she said that President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration initiated a review of the YouWin programme with a view to ensuring sustainability.

“That review acknowledged the success of the original YouWin programme but also found among other limitations, that awardees were overly focused on the grant aspect of the programme and few had been able to secure other forms of funding to grow their businesses despite each receiving up to N10 million in grants.

“In that regard, the Ministry redesigned the programme and relaunched it as YouWinConnect to focus more on continuous enterprise education which will build the capacity of young entrepreneurs across range of disciplines.

“By so doing, YouWinConnect expects to develop entrepreneurs who can attract funding from wide range of sources currently available and take advantage of new funding sources.

“The funding element of YouWinConnect will now take the form of a Venture Fund which will take equity stakes in new and growing businesses.”